3 Signs of a Mental Health Crisis You Should Never Ignore


Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

Crises look different for different people. In fact, triggers for a crisis vary from person to person all the time. So, it is a good standard to check up on everyone you know and love, even if you don’t see these signs. But, understanding these signs will help you know when you might need to offer serious assistance to your friends and family.

Know the Signs of Crisis

1. Increased drug and alcohol use.

This one is pretty straightforward: Anyone who is exhibiting signs of a drug or alcohol addiction is considered in crisis and needs help. However, not everyone who drinks or even uses drugs or some forms of recreational drugs is in crisis, so knowing how to properly read the situation will save you a lot of effort and worry. Here is how you can tell if the drug or alcohol use is getting out of control:

1. Drinking has gone from at night or on the weekends to during the daytime hours.

2. Drinking is excessive and usually coupled with reckless behavior (e.g., driving while intoxicated).

3. The person has been in trouble with the law for behavior while drinking but continues the behavior and drinking habits.

4. This person’s family and friends have discussed the issue of drinking or drug use with the person but he or she continues the behavior.

5. Continued used of alcohol or drugs in spite of negative physical experiences with the alcohol or drugs.

6. Lying about alcohol or drug use.

7. Recreational drug use during work or other inappropriate situations.

8. Illicit drug use despite knowledge and probability of the legal consequences.

9. Prescription drugs have been obtained illegally, such as: Stolen from friends, family, or other locations such as a doctor’s office; Frequent asking around for prescription drugs that haven’t been prescribed to them; Paying for and obtaining drugs that haven’t been prescribed to them.

10. Prescription drugs aren’t being used as directed by their doctor or pharmacist.

11. Mixing drugs that can cause severe reactions in spite of knowledge of these potential reactions.

12. Seeing and receiving different drug prescriptions from different doctors when each doctor might not be aware of the other.

2. Major changes in behavior.

Unlike drug and alcohol use, changes in behavior are much more relative. What might be “normal” behavior from one person might not be “normal” for another. Think of what their baseline behavior is: are they usually happy, outgoing and ready to try new things? Then reclusive, excessively quiet and irritable are going to be signs for them. Some people are homebodies, so being a recluse might not be a true indicator of crisis. Someone who is more quiet and reserved might show signs if they suddenly start doing harmful and reckless things. Watch out for excessive weight gain or loss. Also, obsessive behaviors such as increased fear of germs or obsessing about diet are potential indicators.

3. Suicide attempts and self-harm.

It should go without saying (but unfortunately it needs to be said) that when someone attempts to take their life, they are in crisis. This is true even if you think “they did it for attention.” They are in need of help and it shouldn’t be ignored. It will help you to know what the signs of potential suicide are and what to do when you notice these signs. Self-harm goes the same way. When someone purposely hurts themselves, it either because of deep emotional pain or they feel nothing and want to “feel” again. Self-harm should also be treated as a crisis no matter what intention you think it was for.

If you or someone you know is in imminent danger of hurting yourself, themselves, or others, or there is potential for serious property damage, please call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-8255.

A version of this article was originally published on Save Me From.

Photo by Dan Bøțan on Unsplash


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